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“Asylum seekers and refugees from countries other than Ukraine should benefit from equivalent reception conditions”

Grandstand. Since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine on February 24, millions of Ukrainians have fled their country and around 26,000 have arrived in France. In addition to people who have traveled on their own, or helped by their families and friends, the French government is organizing the reception of several thousand refugees in Moldova under an agreement between European Union countries.

Exceptionally, the restrictions on the access of Ukrainians to the Schengen area have been lifted: people are authorized to circulate for 90 days and can benefit from “temporary protection” which is equivalent to a six-month residence permit, the access to the allowance allocated to people seeking asylum, authorization to work as well as access to accommodation, healthcare, schooling for children and French lessons.

The speed and efficiency with which the aid mechanisms have been put in place by the French authorities are impressive, and show that the reception of populations who are victims of civil war is of course quite possible on the scale of a great world power like France.

What a contrast with the situation experienced by so many people exiled from other countries at war! In 2021, a year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, 103,000 people requested asylum in France, including 12,500 Afghans, many of whom had worked with the French authorities in their country.

Stressful psychosocial factors

According to figures from the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons, the average time taken to examine a first asylum application – which must be submitted via a dematerialized platform and difficult to access for many people – was in 2021 about eight months and the rate of protection granted nearly 25%, which leads many people to file appeals and pursue procedures that can last for years.

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With few exceptions, people in asylum situations do not have the right to work, and nearly half are not housed – contrary to the law and despite numerous convictions by the French authorities before administrative courts. The duration of the asylum application procedure is therefore often not a respite, but on the contrary a period of instability and uncertainty which affects people’s psychological difficulties.

The migration experience has been shown to increase the risk of developing mental disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress and even psychotic disorders, due to increased exposure to stressful psychosocial factors and a breakdown of existing social supports.

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